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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  NEW VERSE

poems of Hier in der Zeit there is still the pang of it in some of the
poems of Labyrinthische Jahre (1952). In the first of the poems,
Acht Variationen fiber Zeit und Tod, the doctrine of the identity of
past, present, and future is quickened by flash-lights on the Nazi
regime: 'How great is Caesar: erect in his chariot, idol of the
masses, receiving flowers and lies, his face threatening like a
clenched fist; and others round him leather-clad, watchful and
smiling, cocked revolvers under their cloaks. Caesar is great; four-
motored bombers roar o'er his head. Fate speaks loud with the
accents of dynamite. Truth is all in one: scenes in cheap marble
and a shot in the mouth and poison; flags, parades, receptions,
and the short, spongy body dragged out of the bunker of the
Imperial Chancellery and two hundred litres of petrol poured on
it.' Here history is epitomized in a way that instantly grips us.
Only one poem, Mit Rosen in Raron, a tribute laid on Rilke's grave,
has a true poet's tenderness. The pattern of Holthusen's verse is
not repellent if it is realized that it is fitted to the sense and to the
revelation of the sense by flashes. Stretches of apparently flat prose
and crass realism are broken by a sudden rush of tensely phrased
and lovely imagery. The poetry is in the totality of the poem; and
even the totality of a single poem is merely a fragment of a great
doctrine of mystic truth, a gospel which in these labyrinthine
years of our wandering through the 'Waste Land' of existence
brings comfort and intelligence of the way we go and whither.
Holthusen's existentialism has the Protestant stamp of Kierke-
gaard and Karl Earth; he has been at pains to stress his aversion
to the French decoction of Heidegger represented chiefly by Sartre.
The surest way to comprehension of Holthusen's verse is a careful
study of his collection of eight essays Der unbebauste Mensch (1951);
the implication of the title, 'Man without a Home', is that we men
of today are wanderers in the 'Waste Land' (to use T. S. Eliot's
term) of lost causes. The essay Das Nichts und der Sinn explores
the theme which we know from Sartre's UEtre et k Neant, shows
the relation to it of Gottfried Benn's nihilism, and accepts T. S.
Eliot's Christian solution of the problem. Ja und Nein - No* kri-
tiscfa Versucfo (1954) collects essays on Holthusen's contempor-
aries: Karl Krolow, Heinz Piontek, and others, Holthusen's first
venture into fiction, Das Scbiff(i<)&>i$ not happy; the action is
on a ship sailing from America to Germany, and the hero aqts as
a catalysator on a clique of college girls, the chemical reactions m